New Delhi: The Centre has announced a 7-day national mourning and State funeral for the former prime minister. The national flag would be flown at half-mast for seven days across India, starting Thursday. Governments in Delhi, Bihar, Punjab and Uttarakhand have announced a holiday on Friday as a mark of respect to the departed leader.

As the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in south Delhi released the much awaited third medical bulletin in the last 20 hours, on Thursday afternoon, politicians rushed to the hospital to catch a glimpse of the much loved three times nonagenarian Prime Minister of India. AIIMS looked more like a news centre and less like a hospital as media persons and photographers positioned themselves in front of the hospital.

Outside the patient reception centre, right at the main entrance of AIIMS, a 32 year old undergraduate, who introduced himself as Suresh Kumar Gupta, stood with arms stretched skywards holding picture frames of Vajpayee with lines from his poems. Gupta, who hails from Muzaffarpur and runs a shop selling electric goods, said he would always cherish memories of his meeting with the former Prime Minister at his Krishna Menon residence.  “I carried litchis for him from Muzaffarpur but found that he was on liquid diet. His secretary was very kind and allowed me to touch Vajpayee’s feet.”

That Vajapayee left an indelible mark for generations to come with his statesmanship was reflected by the gesture of a 21 year old man who travelled 400 kilometre by bus all the way from Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh, in the hope of catching a glimpse of his leader. Udit Trivedi who holds a BSc degree, says, “I was barely three or four when Vajpayee was Prime Minister but I have grown up listening to his speeches in Parliament. For me, he was a “Rajneeti ka Janak’’ (King of Politics). The while House listened to him when he spoke.’’

SAMADHI: The body was taken to his residence in the evening, where hundreds of well-wishers had gathered to pay their last respects. The mortal remains will be taken to the BJP headquarters at 10am on Friday. The samadhi-cum-memorial will be on the banks of Yamuna near Rajghat in New Delhi.

UPA LAW TO BE SCRAPPED: In 2013, the UPA government had passed a law calling for the construction of a ‘Rashtriya Samiti’ or common memorial for all former Prime Ministers of India who did not have memorials of their own. The UPA government had cited “paucity of land” as the reason behind the law on a common samadhi for all departed leaders. For the Vajpayee memorial to be built in New Delhi, the UPA law will have to be overturned. The law is likely to be scrapped in the next Cabinet meeting.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, party veteran LK Advani, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Venkaiah Naidu, several union ministers and CMs and even former Pakistan President Pervez Musharaff mourned his death and several of them are at his residence to pay last respects.

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Free Press Journal